If you were recently involved in an accident that was another driver’s fault, you need to file an accident claim to recover compensation. You’ll need to negotiate with the at-fault driver’s insurance company so that they reimburse you for any damages you suffered. You can build a strong case by collecting evidence proving that the negligent driver was responsible for the accident and that you experienced losses as a direct result.
While you technically can go through the car settlement process on your own, you should contact a car accident attorney to assist you with your case. Car accident lawyers have years of experience handling accident cases, and with their expertise, they can help you gather airtight evidence and negotiate a claim on your behalf.
Regardless of whether you choose to hire a lawyer, it’s critical to understand the settlement process. Here’s what you need to know about filing a claim and reaching a car damage settlement agreement.
Assessing Your Damages
The first step to filing a car accident settlement is assessing the extent of your damages. If you’re only seeking compensation for vehicle damages, this may just mean tracking the costs associated with repairing your car, such as towing and storage fees, repairs costs, and rental car fees.
If you were injured in the accident, you’ll need to keep track of all costs and losses associated with your injuries. Even a seemingly minor car accident can leave victims with life-changing injuries that impact their ability to work and enjoy life, and you can seek damages that compensate you for the lasting effects of the crash.
Depending on your case, you may be able to recover damages for:
- Past and future medical bills: You are entitled to compensation for all doctor’s visits, surgeries, prescriptions, in-home care, and related expenses. You can even recover damages for transportation costs if you had to travel to receive medical treatment.
- Lost wages: If your injury kept you from working, you can recover compensation for the earnings you lost.
- Loss of future earnings: If your injuries temporarily or permanently disabled you, you can recover compensation reflecting the future wages that you’ll lose.
- Pain and suffering: Pain and suffering damages compensate you for the physical and emotional distress that you suffered as a direct result of the accident and your resulting injuries. These damages also recompense victims whose injuries have hurt their quality of life.
- Loss of consortium: Your spouse or registered domestic partner has the right to seek loss of consortium damages if your injuries impact your ability to engage in a loving and intimate relationship with them.
Collecting Evidence to Support Your Claim
To recover just compensation, you’ll need to collect ample evidence indicating that the negligent driver was at fault for the crash and that you suffered losses as a direct result.
Types of evidence you can use include:
- Photographs and videos
- The police’s accident report
- Eyewitness testimonies
- Accident reconstruction experts
- Medical records and doctor’s statements
- Expert medical testimony supporting your claim that your injuries will impact your ability to work in the future
- Documentation indicating lost earnings
- Testimony from family, friends, and co-workers corroborating that your injuries have impacted your quality of life
- A personal journal recording how your injuries have impacted your life and affected your mental and emotional state
Starting the Car Accident Settlement Process
After you receive medical treatment and collect evidence, you can start your settlement process by sending a demand letter to the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
This demand letter should be professional and include the following:
- The sequence of events that occurred at the time of the accident
- The full extent of your damages, including all property damage, medical bills, loss of earnings, and pain and suffering
- Evidence supporting your claim
- Your requested settlement amount
One critical note is that your demand letter is an official legal document, and you should avoid inflammatory, threatening, or insulting language. It’s best to have a personal injury attorney write your demand letter on your behalf, as drafting an unprofessional or poorly written letter may impact your claim.
Negotiating with the At-Fault Driver’s Insurance Company
Once you send the insurance company your demand letter, they will likely either send you a counteroffer for your settlement amount or deny liability.
If they deny liability, you may need to collect additional evidence supporting your claim in an attempt to appeal their decision. If the insurance company continues denying responsibility, you may need to file a lawsuit against them to recover compensation.
If the insurance company sends you back a counteroffer, you’ll need to negotiate with them to reach an agreeable settlement. Again, it’s best to enlist an attorney with years of experience dealing with insurance companies and negotiating settlement claims.
How Long Does the Car Accident Settlement Process Take?
The amount of time it will take for the claims process to conclude will depend on how long it takes to reach an agreeable settlement. That said, the average time span is around 11 months after the car accident.
If you don’t reach an agreement to settle the car accident, you’ll need to file a lawsuit to recover your desired compensation amount. While some car accident cases go to trial, the majority settle beforehand. In fact, only around 5% of car accident cases end up going to court.
Contact an Experienced California Car Accident Attorney
Going through the car accident claims process alone can be incredibly difficult and overwhelming, especially if you’re also suffering from personal injuries. Fortunately, you can increase your likelihood of proving your case and recovering just compensation by contacting a car accident legal team.
For expert car accident attorneys in the Bay Area, contact Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We’ll help you collect evidence and negotiate your claim on your behalf so that you can focus on making a full recovery.
You can schedule a free case evaluation today by calling 877-380-8852, or you can schedule your appointment online here.